Calix awarded ARENA funding for Zero Emissions Steel Technology

Audrey Barucchi \ November 8, 2022

Calix is pleased to announce it has been awarded a $947,035 grant by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to help fund an eleven-month study for a Zero Emissions Steel TechnologY (ZESTY) iron demonstration plant.

The study will include the Basis of Design (BOD) and Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) for a renewably powered 30,000 tonne per annum demonstration plant for ZESTY iron.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said that ZESTY is a prime example of Australian innovation helping tackle global challenges.

Decarbonising heavy industries like steel is a big challenge, and a big opportunity, and ARENA is looking to support companies like Calix that are developing potential solutions,” Mr Miller said.

Welcoming ARENA’s support for ZESTY, Calix Managing Director and CEO, Phil Hodgson said, “We are grateful to ARENA for their support of our shared vision for decarbonised iron and steel in Australia. We look forward to continuing to work closely with ARENA and our partners in industry and academia towards achieving our environmentally and economically important goals.

Decarbonising iron and steel

Iron and steel are materials essential to our economic prosperity and continued development. Responsible for 7% of global CO2 emissions[1], they are also one of our most carbon intensive and hard-to-abate industries.

Currently, approximately 90% of iron is produced by metallurgical coal and coke-fuelled blast furnaces (BFs). This conventional method of iron ore reduction is responsible for 80-85% of the industry’s CO2 footprint.[2] As the second largest source of industrial emissions after cement and lime, iron and steel producers are under intense pressure to decarbonise.

Calix’s Zero Emissions Steel TechnologY

Calix’s ZESTY uses green hydrogen in a renewably powered reactor to produce green iron and ultimately, green steel.

ZESTY can be electrically heated and is compatible with intermittent sources of renewable generation and grid load balancing applications. The unique, indirect heating approach not only enables efficient electrification, but also removes sources of combustion and the generation of hydrogen-oxygen flames, allowing a simpler design and processing at significantly lower temperatures than a conventional BF.

Unlike other direct reduced iron (DRI) technologies, Calix’s indirect heating of the reduction reaction with renewable power means hydrogen is not consumed as a fuel, only as a reductant, and is easily recycled in the process. As such, ZESTY is targeting the minimum hydrogen use of 54kg of hydrogen per tonne of iron, enabling more efficient and economical production of green iron and steel.

ZESTY’s ability to handle small particle sizes has the potential to more easily remove impurities compared with other (DRI) processes, which require pelletised and typically higher grade iron ores. Further testing and validation of this potential is underway.

ZESTY iron aims to enable steel producers to add green iron directly into their existing processes to provide a simple and efficient route to emissions reduction.

ZESTY steel aims to enable steel producers to add ZESTY directly into their process to produce lower carbon, and ultimately zero emissions steel products.

Calix’s ZESTY steel process involves the use of the ZESTY iron process feeding a standard (continuous) electric arc furnace (C-EAF), with the addition of a Leilac kiln to produce zero-emissions lime. No pelletisation of the lime is required, while the lime can also be used to scrub excess carbon dioxide as well as other pollutants from the exhaust gases.

The ZESTY demonstration plant

The $947,035 grant from ARENA will provide approximately 48% of the funding for an eleven-month study for a 30,000 tonne per annum ZESTY-iron demonstration plant.

The proposed renewably powered ZESTY-iron plant will produce green hydrogen for the direct reduction of iron ore to sponge iron. With no carbon involved throughout the process, the proposed ZESTY reactor will demonstrate a new approach to zero emissions iron and steel.

Calix’s ZESTY demonstration plant will also be compatible with intermittent operation, enabling economical use of low cost renewable power and will be compatible with load balancing applications for the energy grid.

The project will cover both the BOD and the FEED study required to determine the final location, specification and cost of the demonstration plant before a Final Investment Decision is taken.

The project will also further establish key partnerships in industry across the hydrogen, iron ore and renewables sectors, in addition to possible end users of green iron through the Heavy Industry Low-carbon Transition Cooperative Research Centre (HILT CRC), facilitating knowledge sharing and the ongoing development of an ecosystem for sustainable heavy industry in Australia.

Green iron and steel – a unique Australian opportunity

Australia supplied over 53% of the world’s iron ore in 2021[1], contributing nearly 44% of Australia’s total export earnings[2]. Haematite, however, makes up 96% of Australia’s exported iron ore[3] and is not suited to most electric arc furnace (EAF) methods.

Compatibility of future green steel processes with the various iron ore grades currently used in conventional BFs will be essential to the efficient decarbonisation of the steel industry, and potentially vital to Australia’s future economic prosperity.

Calix Managing Director and CEO, Phil Hodgson said that the decarbonisation of iron and steel represents a unique opportunity for Australia.

This project aims to further develop a homegrown Australian technology that we believe, together with Australia’s leading iron ore and renewable energy resources, can help make Australia a leading exporter of not just iron ore, but green iron and green steel,” Dr Hodgson said.

Calix’s ZESTY seeks to facilitate the transition to green steel, adding value to local iron ore exports as well as future-proofing local iron and steel production. ZESTY is compatible with multiple iron ore types, including haematite, providing pathways for one of Australia’s most important exports to become sustainable in a low carbon world.

ZESTY-iron is being developed to enable Australian producers to transition towards exporting higher value green hot briquetted iron (HBI) instead of iron ore. The use of HBI to make steel in both Basic Oxygen Furnaces (BOF) and EAFs is proven, and zero emissions HBI would significantly reduce the emissions footprint of both processes, as the energy demand to reduce iron ore accounts for the vast majority of energy consumption in steelmaking.

Australia’s combination of globally leading iron ore and renewable energy resources promises to provide a unique global competitive advantage for green iron production. With current iron prices around three to four times the value of iron ore, the processing of iron ore to metallic iron, and particularly green iron, represents a significant opportunity for Australia to secure and enhance its share of global iron exports, and capture more value from its most exported resource.

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller agreed, “With abundant renewable energy resources and the world’s largest iron ore deposits, we have a unique opportunity to decarbonise an industry that is critical to the global economy.

“We’re looking forward to the outcomes of this study and hope to see ZESTY play an important role in the future of Australian iron and steel.


[1] Climate change and the production of iron and steel. World Steel Association. 2021
[2] Climate change and the production of iron and steel. World Steel Association. 2021
[3] https://www.statista.com/statistics/300328/top-exporting-countries-of-iron-ore/
[4] https://www.minerals.org.au/news/record-high-resources-export-revenue
[5] Iron Ore | Geoscience Australia

Iron and steel production is the second largest source of man-made industrial CO2 emissions with an estimated at 7% of global industrial emissions or around 2.6 billion tonnes per year emitted. Mitigating CO2 emissions from the iron and steel industry will become critical as the cost of CO2 abatement increases over time and further regulatory pressure is applied to heavy industry to de-carbonise. Calix has developed the ZESTY (Zero Emission Steel Technology) the world’s first Electrified-Direct Reduction process. The ZESTY process is a 100% hydrogen-based for direct reduction of iron ore fines in electrified heating furnace using renewable energy sources for iron ore concentrates/fine from ore beneficiation not requiring any pre-processing like sintering or pelletising.

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